A lone black Islamic State (Isis) flag is visible in the distance on the barren hills outside Mosul, just 12km from the Kurdish front line.

The Kurdish fighters - known as the peshmerga - have been holding this line for months, backed by US air strikes that occasionally hit IS positions close by.

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Peshmerga soldiers have been holding the line outside Mosul for months Florian Neuhof for IBTimes UK
Mosul frontline
A view down the scope Florian Neuhof for IBT

But life is not easy for the peshmerga here in the hills outside Mosul. The men have already had to deal with a triple suicide bombing attack and IS fighters regularly try to drive explosive-laden cars across the fields to reach the Kurdish base.

It is a very real threat for the Kurdish fighters, 70% of whom have been killed in attacks using IEDs or suicide bombings.

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A peshmerga fighter scans the horizon for IS fighters or suicide missions from Mosul outskirts Florian Neuhof for IBT
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Spent machine gun casings on the Mosul front line Florian Neuhof for IBT
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A machine gun points towards Islamic State lines outside Mosul Florian Neuhof for IBT

Much of the Kurds' equipment has been donated by the West, including a German machine gun and American weapons, but some Kurdish fighters are expected to bring their own guns to the front.

This lack of equipment has prompted the Kurdish government in Iraq to call for the West to send more weapons, given that the peshmerga are expected to be involved when the Iraqi army finally rally to take back Mosul from IS.

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A Kurdish fortification on the front line outside Mosul Florian Neuhof for IBT
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The line is quiet today but recently three suicide bombers were killed trying to reach the Kurdish position Florian Neuhof for IBT
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A peshmerga fighter guards against suicide bombers on the front line at Mosul Florian Neuhof for IBT

The Iraqi army is currently tied up in Ramadi, which fell to IS on 17 May, and until a strategy for taking Mosul is formed by the Iraqi government, the Kurdish troops will remain here, holding the line against the militants.

For their part, the men say they enjoy being at the front and protecting their home against IS.

"When we go home, we miss being here," says Moyad, who mans the Dushka, the unit's heavy machine gun which dominates the valley below.

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An automatic rifle and ammunition on the floor of a peshmerga position near Mosul Florian Neuhof for IBT

Florian Neuhof is a freelance journalist based in Erbil, northern Iraq. Read his recent report from the Mosul front line for IBTimes UK.